Behavioral psychologist Chantal van der Leest questions our behavior at work: who or what determines our decisions on a daily basis? Today: music and productivity
A tidy desk, a steaming cup of tea and above all a nice piece of music. These seem to me to be the ideal conditions for a productive working day. Unfortunately my friend who works at home loves metal and I am very nervous about this noise. Incomprehensible, he thinks, but luckily I have science on my side. People who are not fans have a lot of hypertension and stress from the metal, but metalhead they can express their anger and rejoice in it. That explains a lot.
So I have strictly banned metal in our home office (and in the car). Then play some music we both can enjoy: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or Pearl Jam. It seemed like a solution for a while, but even then I can’t concentrate at all and he can. In fact, I can only work in total silence, while my friend happily has music on his head all day. What’s up? Does music really help to function well, or not?
Different types of tasks
It just depends on the task, who does the task, the type of music listened to and the level of sound, two New York researchers concluded in 2019. They categorized people by personality: easily bored and not easily bored. They then asked everyone to perform different types of tasks, such as crossing out all the As’s in a text or memorizing and memorizing pairs of words.
As subjects got to work, they listened to topspin music composed especially for the study. Sometimes quite simple tunes, sometimes more complex music with many instruments.
Those who were bored quickly became completely engrossed in the music and were less able to cope with the task.
People who are not easily bored worked better on a simple task with softer, more complex music. The music provided pleasant stimulation during the tedious task so that they weren’t distracted by wandering thoughts. But those who were bored quickly became completely engrossed in the music and were less able to cope. They were more productive without music, or very simple music. They had to turn off the radio completely for difficult thinking tasks.
When it comes to routine chores, everyone loves music as a distraction. But before you enthusiastically put the radio in the office, you might want to check if you’re sharing the room with boring people.
Want to learn more about psychology and work? Read Chantal’s books Why Perfectionists Are Rarely Happy, 13 Tips Against Perfectionism (2021) and Our Fallible Thinking at Work (2018).
Watch all of our work and career videos here:
Free and unlimited access to Showbytes? That can!
Log in or create an account and don’t miss a thing of the stars.
“Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover.”